PNE v Hull City
PNE v Hull City
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Paul Gallagher fired PNE to a 1-0 victory over Hull City despite some late controversy at Deepdale.

North End should have rippled the back of the net multiple times in the first half as they wasted a string of golden opportunities.

But Gallagher finally fired the ball into the back of the net from a slick set-piece routine.

Joe Garner won a free-kick just outside the box on the right and Daniel Johnson squared the ball into the path of Gallagher who swept the ball home in the 66th minute to give the host’s a deserved lead.

But Hull City felt they should have nicked a point after Abel Hernandez wheeled away in celebration in injury time as he thought his flick had crossed the line before North End’s John Welsh cleared the ball away from goal.

But referee Peter Bankes and linesman Mick Denton ruled the ball had not gone over the line and so North End picked up all three points to bounce back from back-to-back away defeats at Leeds and Huddersfield.

The home faithful gave on-loan Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford a rousing reception as he left the field for what could be his final appearance for the Lilywhites if he is recalled by Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce in 2016.

PNE boss Simon Grayson brought John Welsh back into the starting XI after PNE’s dire performance against Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day and the midfielder impressed on his return to the side as he tackled and pressed Hull’s midfield core.

Bailey Wright also returned to the starting line-up for the first time since he was sent off against Blackburn Rovers in November.

Wright was suffering from a virus but lasted the full 90 minutes as he made his 150 appearance for North End.

Wright replaced Paul Huntington in defence who was left out of the squad due to a tight hamstring as Neil Kilkenny moved to the bench to make way for Welsh.

Adam Reach had two chances in the opening six minutes. His first 25-yard effort flew way wide in the second minute and he curled a golden opportunity over the bar from 12-yards out in the sixth minute.

Striker Will Keane pounced on the ball in the box, held off a host of golden shirts and pulled the ball back to the top of the box for Garner who’s first time shot was deflected wide.

Gallagher’s long distance strike glided wide of goal in the 11th minute and Garner also attempted the spectacular from 30-yards out moments later, but his fierce strike was parried to Keane who teed-up Reach to sting McGregor’s palms.

Garner found himself with the goal at his mercy as he wriggled towards the six-yard box in the 17th minute but he failed to hit the target and skied the ball into the crowd.

Hull’s first attempt on goal came in the 22nd minute as Snodgrass curled the ball round the left post from the edge of the box.

Keane pounced on a loose Hull pass on the edge of the box and stormed towards goal but as he honed in he took the ball too wide, narrowed his angle and fired the ball wide of the far post.

Another attempt from Keane fizzed wide of the target and after Greg Cunningham was fouled in the 37th minute Gallagher’s set-piece was batted away by McGregor under pressure from Clarke.

Hull had the last say at the end of the first 45 as Snodgrass curled an effort wide of the left post.

After their poor first half showing Hull started the second half the brighter of the two teams as substitute Tom Huddlestone forced Pickford to dive low to his right with a fierce, dipping long range effort within three minutes of coming on.

Hull had the ball in the back of the net as Chuba Akpom ran one-on-one with Pickford and slotted the ball under the England U-21 keeper but the forward did not beat the offside trap as the linesman flagged him offside.

Davies - who scored Hull’s second in the reverse fixture earlier this year - was booked for a foul on Keane just outside the box in the 62nd minute. Gallagher stepped up to take the subsequent set-piece but his effort crashed into a Hull head and looped over the bar.

Reach dragged the ball wide of the left post moments later as North End started to find their feet in the second half.

Huddlestone was booked for kicking the ball away after fouling Garner just outside the right hand side of the box and North End finally took the lead from a slick set-piece routine.

Johnson stepped up to take the free-kick and he squared the ball across the box into the path of Gallagher. The forward’s first time shot sliced through a crowd of bodies to open the scoring in the 66th minute.

Substitute Abel Hernandez tumbled in the box under pressure from Clarke but he was flagged offside as Hull tried to find a way back into the game.

Johnson’s set-piece was tipped into the path of Reach and the on-loan Middlesbrough winger’s header was cleared off the line by Harry Maguire.

Hernandez spun at the top of the box and unleashed a powerful, low effort that Pickford just managed to hold onto in the 84th minute.

After the late drama of Davies appealing that his header had crossed the line the referee blew his whistle as PNE ended the year on a high.

The result leaves Grayson’s men 17th in the Championship table.

PNE: Pickford, Vermijl (Woods, 89), Clarke, Wright, Cunningham, Welsh, Gallagher (Brownhill, 77), Johnson, Keane, Reach, Garner (Hugill, 90). Subs not used: Kilkenny, Doyle, Davies, Kirkland.

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamaday, Davies, Maguire, Robertson, Snodgress, Livermore, Meyler (Huddlestone, 46), Maloney (Diame, 71) Clucas, Akpom (Hernandez, 63). Subs not used: Taylor, Hayden, Diomande, Jakupovic.

Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)

Attendance: 13891 (1734 away)